So Phoenix Comicon was super fun. Not that I didn’t expect it to be! It just ended up being way more fun than I could have hoped. It was also rather exhausting! But it was extra awesome because we didn’t really have to wait in line for much of anything, as I worried we might. The one thing we did wait in line for (Wil Wheaton’s standup hour) we didn’t really need to, since there were tons of seats and we had bought tickets since it was a special event, and the thing we might’ve needed to wait in line for (John Scalzi and Wil Wheaton talking back and forth on a panel) we managed to avoid by attending the panel held in the same room right before it. All in all, it was great value for what we paid for a weekend of fun.
Thursday was the preview day of the convention, and the only book-author-y event we attended that night was the Books and Authors Kickoff panel, featuring Cherie Priest, Brandon Sanderson, Peter Orullian, Terry Brooks, and Timothy Zahn. To give you a quick rundown: Cherie Priest is most famous for her steampunk Clockwork Century series, which began with Boneshaker. Brandon Sanderson is famous in his own right as a fantasy author with the added fame of having finished Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series after RJ’s death. Terry Brooks writes the long running Shannara fantasy series. Timothy Zahn writes in the Star Wars universe and other sci-fi. And Peter Orullian, with whom I was not familiar before this, writes fantasy.
This panel was just a sort of fun, low-key roundtable discussion led by Orullian. He introduced everyone and then asked some questions of each author to get the discussion going and prod it along when it lulled. Here are some of the funny and/or interesting things that were discussed:
• In Orullian’s introduction of Brandon Sanderson, he mentioned that the first Wheel of Time book that Sanderson wrote knocked Dan Brown off the number one spot (of I’m assuming the New York Times), to which Sanderson replied, “It’s a little like sauntering in after someone’s been boxing for, y’know, 6 hours and defeated 12 opponents, and you’re like, ‘Hey!’ Bam, suckerpunch.”
• Timothy Zahn has a BS in physics from Michigan State. Not University of Michigan! A very important distinction that both Zahn and the audience noted and laughed about.
• Terry Brooks has written 35 or so NYT bestsellers, and Orullian asked, “What gets you up to write book 36?” To which Brooks jokingly (or not, who knows!) replied, “Fear of creditors?” In a more serious vein, he noted that he has been writing for 50 years, and it does get to a point where you ask yourself if you can do it anymore. If the passion isn’t there, readers will pick up on it, but he believes that in this business, you’re a writer because that’s what you do, what you were born to do. And if he is not writing or working on a project in a serious way, then he is not a good person to be around (“Just ask my wife,” he added). Writing is essential to his happiness and that’s what gets him to wake up and write each day.
• Brandon Sanderson talked about instinct and writing—that for him, the more he writes the more instinct he develops for knowing when something is wrong or right, or works or not (he related it to a baseball player swinging the bat and either hitting or missing the ball—something you develop with practice and instinct).
• Cherie Priest moved around a lot as a kid, and she talked about how because of that she quickly learned the importance of sounding like a local for fitting in in a new place. People have told her that characters in her books have very distinct voices, which she really appreciates, and thinks maybe that has to do with the skills she developed for fitting in and quite literally sounding like the locals when she moved from place to place.
• Orullian asked Zahn if, as a physicist, he ever reads speculative fiction novels and just cringes, but Zahn said that he actually has more problems with movies these days. “At least in novels there is an editor who may be actually knowing something about physics, or knows someone who knows something about physics and can run it by that person…I don’t think anyone in Hollywood knows anything about physics.” (much laughter ensued)
• Terry Brooks was a lawyer before he was an author, and at the time it never occurred to him to write a legal thriller. “Why I didn’t think this at the time, I don’t know, because I could be John Grisham by now!” (more laughter ensues)
• Brandon Sanderson is a gamer, and his favorite video game is Final Fantasy X
• Cherie Priest and her cousin once convinced her sister she was being haunted by a poltergeist—they recorded spooky stuff, silly rhymes, etc. on a cassette tape, and hid it under her bed
• Brandon Sanderson talked about Hollywood vs. publishing—Hollywood starts with “Great news!” before telling you not-so-great news, whereas publishing starts with “Your book is terrible!” before you find out that they actually like it. XD
• Cherie Priest talked about the spooky family legend that inspired her to write Those Who Went Remain There Still.
Many other things were discussed as well, but these were some of the tidbits I found particularly interesting or amusing. I’ve finished importing all my recordings, so more panel reports coming soon!